Just a week into spring camp and head coach Gary Andersen
is already seeing improvements within his ranks.
After Saturday's practice, Andersen noted a growing sense of comfort his players have developed within the staff and the new schemes.
"They're comfortable, that's probably number one," Andersen said. "Today we were much more physical. Usually when you're learning a little bit and you're doing things for the first time, you're not as reactive. We all know this is a reactive game. I would say, today, there was not as much thinking going on … first snap awareness is much better on offense and defense and special teams which allows you to play faster."
That comfort level isn't just about the play on the field, it also extends through the entire program.
"I think we all feel more comfortable every day," Andersen said. "The kids, the coaches, the managers, the trainers, the sports information people — every day we get a little more meshed together, if you will. They're a fun group to be around.
"It's an ongoing process but we're making strides."
Sporting full pads for the first time this spring, Andersen expressed how pleased he was with an increased energy level in Saturday's fourth practice. While he liked the intensity level and was pleased with where they are now, he's not ready to say the Badgers are where they want to be at this point in camp.
"I'm never going to jump up and down for joy and say we're right where we want to be," Andersen said. "I don't know if I'll ever say that, but I'm proud of these kids. One week in and I'm very proud of them."
Saturday's practice also marked the first day Wisconsin ran red zone drills. With only its first look, Andersen noted he wanted to get some light reps in and, as expected, little mistakes were made on both sides of the ball leading to a mixture of success and failure offensively.
But the run game powered through for a few scores, including a 20-yard run by Melvin Gordon who bounced outside and down the sideline for the end zone — much like his touchdown run Big Ten Championship game.
While Gordon's run was notable, Jeff Lewis also powered through a few runs and eventually a touchdown, causing running backs coach Thomas Hammock to run out on the field and congratulate his young running back.
"[They have a] great work ethic and excited to come to practice every day," Andersen said of his running backs. "They're very talented young men. Coach [Thomas] Hammock does a great job of coaching those young kids and putting them in the right spot. They expect to be great. That's what we want to do as a football team."
As the running backs continued to look sharp for Wisconsin, the receiving corps has already started to make some strides in spring camp, largely in conjunction with a strong quarterbacking corps.
"They've made some plays down the field," Andersen said. "The way we're with the football is putting it on them. They're going to turn around and the ball is going to be there. We've got three or four quarterbacks that are throwing the ball very well … and for the most part when we get an opportunity on the back end to make a play, they've done a nice job."
As Wisconsin football finishes its fourth practice of the spring, and first in full pads, first year head coach Gary Andersen can see steady improve from his team, his staff and his program.